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DHS students come up with real solutions for real problems

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Photo by Pat Sunderland Team members Thomas Neil, Stevie Butler, Derek Kendrick and Zach Nicholson (not pictured) are confident they've designed a door handle extension that can make life easier for anyone who has trouble grasping and turning a doorknob.

Students at Delta High School have come up with three engineering projects they believe will solve real problems in the community.

The juniors and seniors are students in Ben Magtutu's PhLEM -- Physics Learning, Engineering and Mathematics -- class.

The emphasis is on engineering for these students, who started the school year by assessing needs in the community. They came up with over one hundred ideas, then narrowed them down to three they felt were most significant.

The team of Elizabeth Ward, Hannah Owens, Jaspar Carmichael and Logan Freed is focusing on reducing the decibel level in school facilities, beginning with the cafeteria at Lincoln Elementary School, where the excited voices of dozens of kids bounce and multiply off the walls, ceilings and floor. If children are exposed to high sound levels for an extended period of time, their psychological and physiological health can be affected.

The students proposed a two-prong approach of reduction and absorption. They have designed sound panels to be installed on the cafeteria ceiling to absorb the sound in the room. The panels will also reinforce the school's ideals with words such as "pride" and "respect" printed on the surface.

To get the kids to "turn down the volume" they've also designed a monitor that will measure the decibel level in the room and indicate by light when the noise level is reaching an unacceptable range.

In addition, the students plan to create an interactive sound lab where students can explore the basic principles of sound as well as the detrimental effects of overexposure to sound.

The team of Christopher Hufman, Dakota Waybill, Greg Teel, Nathan Sanders and Nathanael Santonastaso learned of a problem BELA preschool teachers experience almost daily -- escaping 2 1/2-year-olds. Once the kids are out the door, they run freely in the halls and the teacher must leave the other preschoolers unattended while she tracks down the errant child.

Fire codes prevent the installation of child gates, the students learned. An audio alarm would be loud and scary.

Their solution is to use an Arduino system to essentially turn the classroom doorknob into a touch lamp. When the doorknob is touched, the Arduino unit will send a signal to a smaller Arduino unit, either in the teacher's pocket or clipped to her clothes, and it will vibrate. The housing for the Arduino units will be fabricated on the high school's 3D printer.

The students said they could find nothing online that would offer the same benefits, and other solutions they investigated, such as a laser beam across the threshold, would not give the teacher as much time to respond.

The final project was inspired by a visit to HopeWest, but provides a solution for anyone with arthritis who finds it difficult to grip and turn a door handle. Using the existing door knob mechanism, this team developed a solution that is pain-free and requires no wrist motion, only a gentle push downward on an extension they built with a 3D printer at school.

Team members Derek Kendrick, Thomas Neil, Zach Nicholson and Stevie Butler said the 3D printer allows them to customize the device for any doorknob and any individual. They estimated the cost of production at $1 for each unit.

All three teams were required to provide cost estimates for their projects, which ranged from $500 to $900. If funding is approved, the students will be able to order materials before Christmas and have them in hand when they return to school for the second semester.

After the presentations to the entire school board, district administrators and school faculty, the teams responded to questions. When asked about the intellectual rights to some of their real-world solutions, they said all three projects have been entered in a Samsung Solve for Tomorrow challenge which provides $50,000 in technology and assistance with patents for three national winners.

The students wore business attire and illustrated their presentations with audio and visual elements.

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